If I had a dollar for every time somebody told me that I needed to take time for myself, we would be a lot further out of debt! In the battlefields of newborn Isabelle and toddler Alice, my doctor wrote me a prescription for 1-2 hours a day of time I devoted only to me, if even just to sleep. The therapist I saw back in 2007 challenged me to take 15 minutes a day to sit by myself, doing absolutely nothing, for a week straight. She was flabbergasted—almost annoyed—that I couldn’t do it. There was always something that needed to be done, and sitting in my room in the silence was not a relaxing, therapeutic way to take my mind off it. Everyone warned me that if I didn’t do something for myself, I would crack. I shrugged it all off, almost laughing at the absurdity of the concept of “Me Time.”
I reached a point over the winter where the end of my rope was so frayed that I didn’t even have a snapping point anymore. My days were exhausting, not in any way glamorous and had become very cyclical. Some days I didn’t want to get out of bed, not because I was tired but because I could not face the idea of yet another day of the same thing. My job is my family and this house, and at the end of the work day I am… in this house… with my family. I had nothing that was my own, not one thing that I did just for me that brought any measure of fulfillment. Al would give me time on the weekends for shopping or quiet time, but it wasn’t doing it. I was short with everyone and overall, really unhappy. I bottomed out sometime in January, telling Al point blank that I didn’t know if I could do this anymore.
I am grateful for a lot about Al, but mostly it is his even temper in a crisis situation. He didn’t freak out, list the many stresses in his own life, or point out the very obvious reality that quitting was not an option. He made me feel like it would all be okay, and together we came up with a way for me to regain some shred of my sanity back. He was quick to say that he would sacrifice whatever was necessary of his free time so I could really get out and do something for me. I don’t know if it’s too early to say that we changed my life on that night, but I can say that I feel better than I have in a long time.
My friend Joan introduced me to The Couch to 5k running plan and her progress really inspired me. When she first started last summer, she was running only 60 seconds at a time. Less than a year later, she ran her first half marathon in April (that’s 13.1 miles, folks!). The program is designed to help new runners slowly build up their endurance to eventually run 5k, and beyond. I completed the program two weeks ago and ran my first 5k today. I was one of the last ones to cross the finish line, but I didn’t stop to walk and I FINISHED!
If you’d told me three months ago that running would make me feel better, I’d ask you how putting my body through that kind of torture could bring me anything but physical pain. I’m shocked at how this one thing has brought such global improvement in my life. I’m not doing this to lose weight or even to get healthy. When I bought my running shoes, the person helping me asked if I had my first race picked out. I told him I just wanted to see if I could do it, to see if I had the discipline to get out there and push myself to keep going. More than once through the first 9 weeks I was certain I wouldn’t finish a run, but I always did. If I had to, I would slow down to a pace probably slower than my normal walk but I never stopped putting one foot in front of the other. During those moments, I would keep telling myself, “Don’t quit. Keep moving. Just don’t stop.”
It is not only the exercise factor of running that has made a positive impact on me. Running presented a serious challenge for me because I was fairly certain that I couldn’t do it. Every time I finished a run, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment and personal pride, and I always looked forward to the next run, just to see if I could keep going. Looking back over the past three years, I believe that I started to weigh my own personal success on Alice’s progress. Because of all of the effort I was putting in, if Alice wasn’t progressing as I thought she should, I would feel like a failure. I realize now how truly warped that line of thinking is, and I am grateful that I can stand back and see that. I am also grateful that I found something to make me feel proud of myself again… and I do!